Messi guides Barcelona to 8-0 rout in Almeria, Real beats Athletic
Spanish twin giants Real Madrid and Barcelona scored big wins Saturday and are now way ahead in what looks like yet another two-horse race, dpa reported.
Real stay top by one point after caning Athletic Bilbao 5-1 at home. Barca enjoyed their biggest away win since 1960 by thrashing pathetic Almeria 8-0.
Almeria coach Juanma Lillo was immediately sacked, with his team third from bottom and in big trouble.
Real now have 32 points from 12 games. Barca have 31 and have opened up a seven-point gap on third-place Villarreal, who were held 1-1 by fourth-place local rivals Valencia.
Another two-horse race is the battle to be top scorer.
Cristiano Ronaldo hit a hat-trick for Real against Bilbao and has 14. Lionel Messi scored three for Barca in Almeria and is on 13. The impish Argentine has scored a staggering 101 league goals in just five years.
After the destruction of Bilbao, Ronaldo said: "I am very happy now. It is not important who finishes as top scorer but which team wins the league."
Asked about Barca scoring eight, the Portuguese striker - provocative as ever - replied: "That doesn't matter. We will score eight against them next Monday."
Real are at Barca in "El Clasico" on November 29.
The whites went ahead against Bilbao in the 20th minute when Angel Di Maria set up Gonzalo Higuain, who barged through the Basque defence and made it 1-0 with a low drive.
On the half hour, Ronaldo made it 2-0 with a precise left-foot shot, after being played through by Mesut Oezil.
Spain striker Fernando Llorente pulled back a goal for the visitors just before half-time, despite a strong suspicion of offside.
In the second half, Real were given two questionable penalties, converted by Sergio Ramos and Ronaldo. The Portugal captain also scored from a long-range free-kick that Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz made a complete mess of.
Earlier on the night, Messi had torn apart the brittle Almeria defence with his latest hat-trick.
Supersub Bojan hit two second-half goals for Barca. The other goals were scored by Pedro and Andres Iniesta - plus an own goal from Almeria defender Santiago Acasiete.
"That was a lovely match for us," Messi said. "We played really well and enjoyed ourselves."
Earlier Saturday, injury-hit Valencia did well to battle out a 1-1 draw at local rivals Villarreal, in a disjointed east coast derby.
Valencia had gone to Villarreal without seven injury victims, and coach Unai Emery was forced to rejig his team even further when defenders David Navarro and Miguel both limped off injured.
Aritz Aduriz gave Valencia the lead in the 21st minute by turning in an excellent centre from Joaquin.
The equalizer was really a matter of time and came in the 74th minute, when Bruno Soriano centred from the left for Italian striker Guisppe Rossi to make it 1-1 with a deft finish.
It was Rossi's eighth goal of the season and caused Valencia to endure a torrid finale, in which defender Marius Stankevicius was harshly sent off.